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Access of SMEs/VSEs to public procurement and public contracts

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public contracts, works or service concessions, partnership contracts and public-private partnerships in general, etc.), as well as the guarantees and capacities (economic and financial, or technical and professional) required by public purchasers (State, local authorities, public establishments, certain specific private operators, etc.), are likely to constitute an obvious obstacle to the attractiveness and access of VSEs/SMEs to order contracts public.

 advice to VSEs and SMEs to facilitate access to public procurement and public contracts .

Strategies for access to public markets for VSEs/SMEs

Obtaining global or complex public contracts often remains unlikely for VSEs/SMEs. These contracts imply the establishment of financing on the one hand and the management, or even the maintenance of infrastructures or the operation of services on the other hand, as well as the provision of heterogeneous services (in particular in the framework of concessions, global markets, or partnership markets).

There are, however, certain strategies allowing easier access for VSEs/SMEs to traditional public procurement. The regulations relating to the award of public contracts can indeed be used to promote the access of VSEs/SMEs to public procurement:

Public purchasers are in principle required to carry out an allotment of contracts, and thus to separate the distinct services into different batches likely to be awarded to different economic operators.

The purpose of this obligation is to increase the number of companies likely to bid and obtain a contract.

Applicants for the award of a public contract may also submit their application in the form of a group of companies (joint or several). This solution can allow them to access markets that they could not have obtained individually, by relying on the capacities of all the members of the group of companies.

The declaration of subcontractors when applying for a contract also allows a VSE/SME to rely on external skills and submit a more complete application. VSEs/SMEs can also act as subcontractors themselves and join forces with a partner company, in order to offer additional specialized services.

Public purchasers may also carry out prior consultations or market studies, the purpose of which is to solicit opinions or inform economic operators in the sector of the planned project.

This practice should not be neglected by the interested economic operators, and in particular VSEs/SMEs, because it allows them to make themselves known and to make their professional solutions known to the public purchaser concerned, and to obtain information on the needs sought by the public purchaser.

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Optimizing the chances of accessing public markets

If these mechanisms are likely to favor the access of VSEs/SMEs to public procurement, it is obvious that obtaining a public contract remains a complex and uncertain process.

This is why it is necessary to carry out a rigorous selection of markets, prior to the submission of an application:

Priority targeting public contracts for which the services requested correspond to the activity and experience of the company, targeting the public purchaser corresponding to the size of the candidate (local public company/national company, community time tracking software territorial/State, local public establishment/Establishment or national administrative authority, etc.), or the fact of ensuring that one actually has the technical and professional capacities, as well as the economic and financial capacities, are all prerequisites necessary to optimize its chances of obtaining a contract.

Indeed, despite the possibility of forming groups, a public purchaser will always be more inclined to entrust a contract to a company of substantial size, when this contract exceeds certain amounts and certain strategic stakes. Conversely, some smaller markets are more naturally suited to VSEs/SMEs with local economic activity.

It is also advisable to study in detail the consultation file of the companies (the documents relating to the award of the contract) before sending an application, in order to ensure not only the needs of the public purchaser, but also the procurement procedure which can be more or less restrictive and more or less adapted to VSEs/SMEs (adapted or formalized procedure, possibility of negotiating, of presenting variants and thus of adapting its offer to the know-how of the company , etc.), in order to choose in a privileged way the markets for which the operation and the activity of the candidate company will be the most adapted.

Adapting a company’s application and offer to the needs of a public purchaser remains essential to optimize the chances of being awarded a public contract.

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